Citing a Copy of Certificate of Birth from another state

Many of my family members have vital records in the town of Enfield, Connecticut. Often the event occurred in Springfield, Massachusetts because the nearest hospital was located there. A record copy was provided to the town of Enfield where the families lived, and where I’ve gathered all my information. They state: COPY OF CERTIFICATE OF BIRTH using the certificate template provided to the town of Springfield.

I’m struggling to cite this properly. Is the Jurisdiction Springfield, Massachusetts or Enfield, Connecticut? Do I need to include the state in the repository location to make clear it is different than where the record was authored? Also, the records have page numbers, but the books are not consistently labelled. Is it acceptable to include the page number and full date to help locate the records? Below is my attempt at a proper citation. Thank you.

Source List Entry

Connecticut. Enfield. Birth Certificates, Office of the Town Clerk, Enfield.

First Reference Note

Springfield, Massachusetts, copy of certificate of birth p. 46 (10 Feb 1900), John Smith Doe; City Clerk's Office, Enfield, Connecticut.

Submitted byEEon Thu, 12/12/2019 - 20:55

burzel2, can you supply an image, with names blurred out, if you wish? It's always risky to tell someone how to cite a quirky record, sight unseen.

Submitted byEEon Fri, 12/13/2019 - 10:40

You ask thoughtful questions, burzel2, but the image raises more questions. Let's consider the process by which it was created ... and then end with those questions:

Consider the process:

16 February 1944  Child is born

18 February 1944  Original certificate, using a Massachusetts Division of Vital Statistics form, is created by Dr. T. E. Vail, in Springfield (Hampton Co.), Massachusetts

28 February 1944  Original certificate is received and certified by Registrar of Springfield.

22 March 1944      Original certificate (or a duplicate original) is received and certified by Registrar of Enfield, Connecticut.

That much is clear. But the image itself raises one question and your comment about book and page raises another.

  1. Why is there an addition at the bottom, dated 22 September 1966 in Springfield, that says “I certify that this is a true transcript …."?  (It actually isn't a transcript, it's an image. And this type of certification—with the crimped stamp—is normally added when someone orders a copy of the document.  If that were the case here, then this document would seem to be a family artifact that someone obtained 53 years ago.)
  2. You state that in the Enfield Registrar’s office, the documents have page numbers although “the books are not consistently labelled.”  (In this case, I don’t see a page number on the document.  The image you present, with that fee notation in the top left corner, looks like the type of document sent in response to a request for a copy rather than an image from a book and page.)

Can you clarify?





Submitted byburzel2on Fri, 12/13/2019 - 11:24

I think I can answer both. I visited the Enfield Clerk's Office a few days and looked at an example. My grandfather's death certificate. His COPY OF CERTIFICATE OF DEATH was in the book with a page number added in the upper right corner. The book was a mix of both Enfield and Springfield death certificates. The Springfield records were a different color and size. Kind of square like the example attached.

The clerk also showed me the little piece of paper with "...this is a true transcript..." on it. My guess is this is used when images are taken to create certified copies even though it's technically not accurate. The attached example is a scanned copy of a birth record for a living relative. They must have requested a certified copy back in 1966. I am certain the certified copy is an image of a record in the Enfield Clerk's office. Notice there is also the number 46 in the upper right corner. This is the page number added once it was put in the book.

Please let me know if this answers your questions.

Submitted byEEon Fri, 12/13/2019 - 14:34

Interesting. And now, one more. When you say "the attached example is a scanned copy of a birth record for a living relative," are you saying that the clerk scanned a copy from the book itself, and that the bound document includes the image of that little slip of paper at the bottom with the 1966 date?  Or are we dealing with two different things here: (1) this one 1966 "transcript" for a living person that is held within the family; and (2) other certificate images you obtained from the clerk's office itself, without that 1966 notation? 

You say 'they must have requested this back in 1966,' but it's not clear who you received the copy from.

Submitted byburzel2on Fri, 12/13/2019 - 17:17

The bound copy does not contain the little slip of paper. The 1966 "transcript" is held by the living person, and I have a picture of it. This is the only one I have. 

For all the other people I've only viewed the records and copied all the information. Pictures of records are not allowed.

In summary I have a picture of a certified copy held within the family obtained in 1966 from the Enfield Clerk's Office. They included the little slip of paper when making the copy and then added the crimped stamp. The record in the Clerk's Office is a record copy originating in Springfield.

Submitted byEEon Sat, 12/14/2019 - 11:04

Burzel2, if I understand you correctly:

  • We do have two situations that call for slightly different handling (one being the family artifact and the other being the records you viewed in the Registrar’s Office), but both have the same quirk. Either way, we need to make a layered citation out of it; and we need to add an explanation.
  • For records you view at the Enfield office you are not allowed to image them; thus, you have transcribed the data.

As an example for both situations, I will use the document you uploaded:


      1. Massachusetts Division of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Birth for [Name], born 16 February 1944, Springfield, Massachusetts; filed with Registrar of Vital Statistics, Enfield, Connecticut; certified imaged copy provided 22 September 1966 by Enfield Registrar to [Name, Location]; currently in possession of [Name, Location]. The child was born in Massachusetts to parents who were residents of Enfield; thus, the dual registration.


     2. Massachusetts Division of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Birth for [Name], born 16 February 1944, Springfield, Massachusetts; filed with Registrar of Vital Statistics, Enfield, Connecticut in Book ______, page 46; the document has been viewed and data extracted by [Name, Location] but imaging is not allowed. The child was born in Massachusetts to parents who were residents of Enfield; thus, the dual registration.

Is everything interpreted correctly?

Submitted byburzel2on Sat, 12/14/2019 - 20:03

This is extremely helpful. Thanks for working with me! It's helpful seeing my actual example worked out then going back to EE to understand why.

I do have one remaining question. You show Massachusetts Division of Vital Statistics as the creator of the record. I was convinced the creator was the town of Springfield, Massachusetts because it's at the local level. Can you explain why?

Submitted byEEon Sun, 12/15/2019 - 09:53

burzel2, your question is a good point to consider. The reasoning is this:

  1. Normally, with birth and death certificates, we observe the difference between local registrations and state registrations because the two versions may vary. What we obtain from one office may not be the same as what we obtain from the other. If we obtain the record from the local office, we cite the local office. If we obtain it from the state, we cite the state.
  2. In this case, we don’t know what we would get from either the state of Massachusetts or the city of Springfield’s vital-records registrar. All we have to work with is what comes from the vital records registrar in the town of Enfield—either by mail-order or through a personal visit to the office. In this case, it’s a form that self-identifies as an official document of the state (“Commonwealth”) of Massachusetts, with added certification by the Enfield registrar.  

Another way to express the reasoning would be this: When we identify sources, our guiding principles should be

  1. How can I describe this record to best represent the situation?  (Not some one-size-fits-all formula but the actual situation in this instance.)
  2. Does my description enable others to find the same record I found—or enable me to find it again at a later date after my recollection has gone cold?
  3. Does my description enable me and others to evaluate the record, the potential for error, and the likely reliability of the data?

Submitted byburzel2on Mon, 12/16/2019 - 21:02

Thanks again. Most of my records have a similar situation where the event occurred in a different town from where the record is located. Each needs careful consideration of the situation.

Submitted byEEon Tue, 12/17/2019 - 11:14

burzel2, your last sentence says it all: Each thing we use needs careful consideration of the situation. After four-plus decades of straightening out a lot of messes made by those who don't 'carefully consider the situation' of each thing they use, I can't think of any one piece of more-important advice!